Clogher ACP group considers pastoral supervision of priests

A meeting took place of Clogher ACP on Wednesday 28th November 2012. Eleven priests attended, seven sent apologies including our Bishop. Following on from our constant concern about the needs of our clergy, our topic for discussion at this meeting was our need for Pastoral Supervision/Reflection
A presentation was made by Fr. Declan Mulligan, a Down and Connor Priest. He spoke of how formal supervision/peer support was very much a part of the secular world. No comparable professional walk of life leaves the requirement for self-care absolutely to its own personnel; how essential it is then for a priest, who has to react to so many different and often challenging situations, to have this support/supervision, for to be human is to be in relationship with other people.
Declan presented supervision/reflection as a means of being accountable to ourselves, to our vocation, to our God. By connecting with our brother Priests we can share similar problems and experiences and receive support and a listening ear. It would be good to belong to a group that I value and that values me. It is of particular benefit to those who work in isolated situations, and can be very restorative.
There was also acknowledgement of some fears about opting into supervision/reflection, motivation, commitment, taking or getting time off, there is also the possibility that the support could remain on the margins of one’s experience, and so no growth in ministry might occur.
Supervision/reflection is all about learning, instead of doing something the same way, all of the time. It was acknowledged that we all learn in different ways, and until we understand this, we can find it irritating in any group. Pastoral Supervision/Reflection helps us understand ourselves, and others, we can in fact challenge each other by this.
Supervision/reflection is about “over”-looking, looking down from above, another look, a looking again from another view/perspective. A better vision, extra vision, a further look.
Seen from this perspective, supervision/reflection is essential for a group or individual. It also needs to be regular and intentional to look at our work, our ministry. It is not counselling, it is not spiritual direction but it should link with our vocation. It is a looking at those areas of growth, of change, with feedback and guidance from others. It’s a process of deep thought, projecting to the future, and what we need to change, that space to reflect upon our ministry and try out new ways of doing things.
Spiritually speaking, supervision is a God-centred, relational, communion that enfolds us. All insights are for oneself in our reflection: I see, I notice, I realise, I understand. It is having that space where we can be really heard when we speak, a place where we can savour our ministry and where we can mourn our losses, it’s all about growing. It enables us to be a companion, rather than a problem solver. Supervision/reflection is risky, boundaries and a contract are essential, it requires a lot of faith and trust but it is worth all of that.
This is a brief overview of what we explored with Declan’s help at this gathering. As well as offering us his input by way of a powerpoint presentation, he drew us into a useful conversation on the topic. We concluded by agreeing to explore this further with a view to enabling the emergence of a group or groups for those who wish to follow up in that way.
Our next gathering of Clogher ACP is on Wednesday 30th January in Clones.

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One Comment

  1. This is a really enlightened step towards the care of priests who give so much in their ministries. I am delighted to see this professional practice introduced into priestly ministry. I have a particular interest in professionalism and best practice lending itself to the life and ministry of the Church and think that this whole field of research and practice has a lot to offer all involved in the life and ministry of the church.

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